Poll of the week: A new Gallup poll finds that just 49% of Americans say they would shelter in place if public health officials recommended it because of a coronavirus outbreak.
That’s down significantly from the 67% who said so during a Gallup poll taken in late March and early April.
What’s the point: The coronavirus outbreak got lost in the news shuffle during the last month because of the election. But just because the media isn’t covering the pandemic at the same level, it doesn’t mean it has gone away.
In fact, we’re looking at some of the worst coronavirus numbers in a long time, and, unlike earlier this year, it’s not clear at all that there is the public will to do what’s necessary to slow down the rate of infection.
A glance at the numbers tells the story. Right now, the virus is raging in pretty much every state. As of this writing, a CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data indicates that the number of coronavirus cases is up in every state compared to last week, except for Georgia. A New York Times examination of the data shows that in over 90% of the states, there was a daily average of at least 15 new cases per 100,000 people over the past week.
Horrifyingly, there are more daily new coronavirus cases than at any point of the pandemic.
Even in states that were touted as success stories have seen backsliding. Take the state of New York, which has one of the most wide-reaching testing programs in the country. On September 1, 0.8% of tests came back positive in the daily, 7-day average and 14-day average. This week, the daily hit above 3% on at least one day, while the 7-day and 14-day average got above 2%. That’s a huge increase.
This rising positivity rate came even as the number of tests climbed compared to two months ago, which should lower the positivity rate if the number of cases is remaining static.
Indeed, it’s not just cases and testing that’s up nationally. The number of deaths and hospitalizations are up over 33%, according to the Times.
We are, to put it mildly, in a world of trouble.
Yet it doesn’t seem like the American public or the electorate has anywhere near the same yearning that we did in April to do what can be done to keep the virus at bay.
It’s not just that less than a majority of Americans are unwilling to say they’re “very likely” to shelter in place. It’s that they’re currently not isolating. A clear majority (62%) said they were only partially isolated or not isolated at all in Gallup’s late October poll. The percentage was half that (30%) in April.
In an Axios/Ipsos poll conducted in late October, 53% admitted that they were not always maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from other people when going outside their house. This was one of the highest numbers of the pandemic. Back in April, the percentage who said they weren’t keeping a distance of at least 6 feet never rose above 34%.
And while 46% of Americans said they haven’t started making holiday plans yet, those who have are split fairly evenly between planning to celebrate among their immediate family and people they live with (30%) and with those outside this select group (24%).
In other words, there does seem to be a real chance that the holidays could turn into a chance for the coronavirus to spread easily because people are going to be gathering in close quarters with people they don’t live with. (Public health officials say that these smaller gatherings are how a lot of the transmission occurs.)
Perhaps what’s most worrisome is that these poll numbers are coming against a backdrop of Americans seeming to realize the country is on the wrong path with how we’re handling the virus.
Most (61%) told Gallup that the coronavirus situation is getting worse. A mere 23% think it’s getting better, one of the lower percentages of the pandemic so far.
Despite Americans knowing we’re on the wrong trajectory, it hasn’t yet caused the type of change in habit that may be necessary to beat back the latest wave of cases.
Unless Americans change their tune quickly, things may get a lot worse regarding the virus.